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Texas House approves sweeping voter restriction bill

Texas state Democrats left the House floor late Sunday in an attempt to block a restrictive voting bill from passing, per the Texas Tribune reports.

Why it matters: Texas is the latest Republican-controlled state to push for stricter voting laws in the aftermath of baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election, though the state has faced pushback from major corporations and advocatesover the bill.

  • The legislation would have placed limits on whether people can vote early, vote by mail, or vote from their cars.

What's new: The House has adjourned until 10am Monday following the walkout.

Background: Senate Republicans suspended chamber rules on Saturday night in order to review the legislation, 12 pages of which had not been previously considered and were added without public visibility, the Tribune reports.

  • A tighter window for early Sunday voting was approved, which one state senator said could limit "souls to the polls," a tradition in Black communities where people vote after church.

Details: Senate Bill 7 bans drive-through and 24-hour early voting as used in Harris County, where Houston is located, in the last election, per the Tribune. Black and Hispanic voters had cast more than half of the drive-thru votes and extended hour votes in Harris County last year.

  • The bill prevents election officials from sending absentee ballots to all voters, prohibits the use of temporary structures at polling locations and limits voting hours in other large counties.
  • It also requires citizens to provide their driver’s license numbers or the last four digits of their Social Security numbers to request a mailed ballot. Voters will be required to include the same information on envelopes when they return their ballots for their votes to be counted.

The big picture: Voting advocacy organizations, civil rights groups and state Democrats have warned that the bill targets people of color and marginalized groups. Major corporations like HP, Microsoft and Unilever urged state lawmakers to reject the bill.

  • Georgia and Florida have already enacted new voting restrictions led by Republicans in the name of election integrity.
  • The Justice Department found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would have changed the outcome of the presidential election, former Attorney General Bill Barr said in December.

President Biden on Saturday called the bill "part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year — and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans."

  • "It’s wrong and un-American. In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote," Biden added. "I call again on Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act."

What to watch: Voting rights groups have pledged to challenge the bill in court and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) was expected to sign it into law once passed by the Republican majority.

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